In a setback to the AIADMK Government, the Madras High Court on Thursday allowed non-governmental organisations to distribute free food and dry ration to the needy.
Rejecting the stipulation of the Government that such relief should be routed to local authorities so as to avoid crowding, a division bench said the NGOs need not seek prior information . It was enough if they informed the authorities 48 hours in advance.
However, the bench said only three men from the concerned NGO along with their vehicle driver should go around and distribute these relief materials. They all should wear masks and gloves and have sanitisers. They should also maintain social distancing so as to avoid spread of Covid19 virus.
The court passed this order on a petition filed by the opposition DMK whose counsel P Wilson told the court that the Government directive was politically motivated as it did not want allow any voluntary organisations to undertake in relief work.
Refuting the contention of the Government that unregulated supply of free ration would lead to crowding, Wilson produced photos showing State Ministers like D Jayakumar distributing free food, rice and other ration to the poor without observing social distancing.
He also pointed that even the DMK’s decision to hold an all-party in-door meeting at party headquarters with its allies was disallowed by the Government.
The Government contended that the directive to NGOs and other agencies to route their relief materials through corporation commissioners and other local authorities was only to avoid crowding in public places in this time of epidemic.
Wilson said even the Centre and the Supreme Court had said NGOs should also be allowed to undertake relief measures.
After hearing both sides, the bench said the NGOs can distribute relief to the needy without the prior permission of any authority, provided they take proper safety measures and maintain social distancing.
The State Government has given 15 kg of rice free, plus six kg of dhal and edible oil to the poor like daily wagers, auto drivers and other ration card holders. It has extended this benefit even to migrant workers who do not have ration cards .
It has also given Rs 2000 to each card holder as well and migrant worker in two instalments after extension of the lockdown till May 3.